Livelihoods & enterprise


permanent conservancy employees


members of the Savings and Credit Cooperative, active in 16 conservancies

Ksh. 73 million

in total commercial income to conservancies in 2017

Ksh. 97 million

allocated to 26 livelihoods projects in 2017, benefitting an estimated 62,000 people across 23 conservancies


Increase in tourism revenue in 2017


Transforming lives is at the heart of the community conservancy model. As well as improving security and the management of rangelands and wildlife, conservancies  provide their constituents with access to jobs, better services for community development and more business opportunities.

NRT's for-profit arm, NRT Trading, was established to identify, incubate, pilot and grow sustainable businesses within the NRT conservancies. But alongside this, NRT is supporting conservancies to develop partnerships with tourism operators, establish savings and credit cooperatives to encourage new businesses, and steer their own development projects. 

“Many failures in development derive from externally driven or top down solutions. Too often you see projects that have been established with little community consultation, so when there are problems no incentive or capacity to fix them. The success of the community conservancy model is largely down to the fact that communities are taking charge of their own development. What we’re seeing with the Conservancy Livelihoods Fund is an end-to-end ownership of projects, from the democratic identification of problems and challenges, to the development, governance and maintenance of solutions.”

NRT Director of Sustainability, Mike Harrison.   

JPM NRT 2008 hi res - 052.jpg


Empowering communities to identify, plan and implement their own development programmes.   

The Conservancy Livelihoods Fund (CLF) was established in 2015 to enable conservation activities to have more direct, tangible livelihoods benefits to conservancy members. 

The model is similar to any other grant proposal process. Conservancies must apply to NRT for CLF funding, with proposals that reflect community priorities and have been approved by respective boards. But it differs from a lot of other NGO funding in two main ways. The first is that it is only open to NRT member conservancies. Secondly, and most importantly, how it is spent it is entirely the community’s choice. 

To date, the CLF has provided US$ 1.6 million for 66 projects across 29 conservancies. 45 CLF projects have been used to leverage match-funding or technical support from county governments and other NGOs.

Education has dominated CLF spending to date, with 36% of total funds spent on 30 education projects in 21 conservancies. Since its inception in 2015, 28% of Conservancy Livelihoods Funds have gone towards water projects - including pumps, boreholes, tanks and pipes - in 13 conservancies.  


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Tourism is one of the most powerful ways for local communities to see tangible benefits from wildlife and habitat conservation. Not only do lodges, camps and adventure operators provide jobs to local people, but the revenue to conservancies from bed night and entry fees support core operations (such as ranger salaries and vehicle maintenance) and social projects for the entire community (such as education and health).  

Conservancies provide the right framework for investors to ensure they are working with, and have the support of, local communities. NRT supports conservancies to broker these agreements with tour operators, ensuring the needs and concerns of communities are met and that investments are sustainable and responsible. 

There are currently five lodges operators in six NRT member conservancies. 

As well as partnerships with lodges, conservancies receive tourism income from their own initiatives. Ngare Ndare Forest for example runs a very successful tourism outfit, offering guided hikes, a canopy walk and a campsite for visitors. In 2017, Songa Conservancy received significant income from the annual 4x4 car rally 'Rhino Charge'. 

NRT Trading has built a website to promote travel to north Kenya, and is campaigning to brand the region 'The Big North'. The website aims to make it more accessible for independent adventurers and safari-seekers. 




Namunyak Conservancy

Saruni Rhino

Sera Conservancy

Il ngwesi

Il Ngwesi Conservancy

Saruni Samburu

Kalama Conservancy


Westgate Conservancy


Lekurruki Conservancy


building businesses

Would you give a loan to an uneducated warrior with an AK-47? How about a woman who can't read or write? 

We do. 

Dade Roba at her posho mill in Biliqo Bulesa (2).JPG

Dade Roba
Used her SACCO loan to boost her maize mill business. Read her story here. 


Lemula Lekumoisa
Turned to the Kalama SACCO when he lost everything to drought. Read his story here. 

In 2016, NRT and NRT Trading were supported by USAID to start an initiative focused on helping women and young men in conservancies to build sustainable businesses. The Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) programme provides relevant financial training and an accessible savings and loans scheme to young warriors at risk of being caught up in the front lines of conflict, and women who are frequently denied business and education opportunities by a patriarchal society. 

The member-driven cooperative uses mobile money to make savings and credit accessible even when the nearest bank is hundreds of miles away, and is helping to create an environment for businesses to thrive in remote conservancies. After completing the necessary financial literacy training, members are required to pay a 500-shilling ($5) membership fee and are asked to invest in a $10 share capital with a minimum monthly deposit of $3. After a 6-month membership, the SACCO will loan members three times their savings with no interest. 

Critical to its success is the fact that the SACCOs are run for and by the members. In the warrior (moran) groups, 'Star Morans' and 'Superstar Morans' are elected as leaders, and charged with debt collection, overall running of the SACCO, and raising financial awareness among their peers. These men must be good leaders and peace ambassadors, and have good business instincts. Not only is it turning illiterate young men into entrepreneurs, but the SACCO is also contributing to peace. Reports from the field suggest that warriors busying themselves with their businesses are not interested in taking part in conflict, despite peer pressure to do so. 

The impact on women is significant too. As more women are empowered through SACCOs to earn their own income, there is an increasing awareness of their rights to participate in, and steer, activities in their conservancy. 

By the end of 2017, there were 837 SACCO members across 16 conservancies. And this number is growing. Each year, a larger proportion of CLF funds are being dedicated by conservancies to starting SACCOs, after seeing the benefits of existing cooperatives.